Spring 2019

17th July 2019
There is a day each year when driving home to the Croft we notice everything has suddenly turned from brown to green, and it seems all the trees on the Croft have burst into leaf together. This year it happened on the 23rd of April, which was also the day I heard the first Cuckoo of the year and saw the first Cuckooflower in bloom. We spotted our first Orange-tip Butterfly a few days earlier. For me, these are the signs that Spring has well and truly arrived. We observed Starling, Goldfinches, House Sparrows, Greenfinch and Blue Tits collecting duck feathers for their nests. Next year we'll get a cute photograph 🙂
Fish box nursery

We have huge numbers of tiny Hawthorn, Scots Pine and Rowan trees that we've grown from seed and are continuously pricking out into root trainers, limited by our supply of compost, root trainers, time and energy. We've also had Sea Buckthorn and Hazel germinate this Spring. The Oak and Holly, Wych Elm and Elder from last year are all still doing well. We've moved the fish box nursery to our house so we can water more easily during any dry spells over the Summer. We are slightly concerned however about the damage the four hens who arrived at the croft recently might cause..... meet Buck Buck, Buckbeak, Hei Hei and Scabbers, two Browns and two Light Sussex. We are eagerly awaiting our first hen eggs!

New Moth for Skye! We've had lots of firsts this Spring. A new moth for Skye, Ringed Carpet, which is a nationally Scarce A species (a species only found in 16-30 hectads - whatever that means) We also trapped our first Puss moth (right). This is a truly stunning moth, I've wanted to see one for ages! Phil planted Aspen root during our first year here which has suckered and is the food plant of this species so we think it may be new to the Croft. I'll be hunting for the awesome looking larva in the Autumn.

New bird for the Croft!

We've added Blackcap to our bird list bringing us to 81 species (give or take - we've lost track a bit) recorded on the Croft. We think the Blackcap are breeding on the Croft this year which is fantastic.

New Beetle for Skye!

I spotted a very cute green bug on the wall of our house and I'd never seen anything like it. I managed to take a very fuzzy photo. I initially thought it could be an early instar of a Shield Bug, but it looked more like a green Ladybird. A quick google search revealed the Green Tortoise Beetle so I checked the NBN (few Scottish records, mostly Central Belt) and I emailed my photo to HBRG (https://www.hbrg.org.uk/). Our one turned out to be a Thistle Tortoise Beetle (Cassida rubiginosa) and the first ever record from Skye. Tortoise Beetles are a whole new thing for me so it was quite exciting. Apparently the Larva likes to cover its back in its own poo - it's spiny and looks utterly terrifying.

The beautiful Sunny, dry April we had here on Skye really helped me to get out for a bit of training before tackling the West Highland Way at the start of May. I've been enjoying early morning walks before work and late evening ones whenever I can escape (and have the energy). I've enjoyed my solo walks so much and am determined that after the WHW I will keep this as a weekly ritual - even when the rain comes (and the midges).

I've been getting into Kinloch Forest, comprised mainly of naturally regenerated young Birch, Holly, Oak and Hazel, and walking to the cleared village at Leitir Fura. Cleared villages are common in Skye. Whole townships had to leave, many emigrating, as landowners replaced people with sheep in the 1800s. Since moving here almost 4 years ago we've done this 5 mile walk only a handful of times. I've suddenly realised how incredibly lucky we are to have this beautiful woodland on our doorstep. A carpet of wildflowers erupted in April with Bluebells, Celandines, Violets, Wild Garlic, Wild Strawberry, St Johns Wort, Wood Sorrel, Primrose and Wood Anemone. I heard my first Grasshopper Warbler of the year here (21st of April) and enjoyed fantastic views of a male Bullfinch. The views are astounding - looking over the Sound of Sleat to the hills of Knoydart, the lighthouse at Isle Ornsay and on the way back the entire Cuillin ridge. I had a stunning walk back to the car park one evening with the orange sun setting behing the Ridge.

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